Hrdlička, Alěs 1869-1943

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Ales Hrdlicka was born in Bohemia and came to America in 1882. He received an M.D. degree from the New York Eclectic College (1892) and graduated from the New York Homeopathic College (1894). He also studied medicine and anthropology at the Sorbonne. Dr. Hrdlicka was assistant curator (1903-1910) and curator (1910-1943) of the Division of Physical Anthropology at the National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. He led numerous anthropological expeditions and did extensive research on prehistoric migration on the Aleutian Islands. He died in Washington D.C. in 1943.

From the description of Bibliographic card file, undated. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 42927803

Physical anthropologist.

Born in 1869 in Bohemia, Aleš Hrdlička emigrated to New York City at age fourteen. Obtaining a medical degree in 1892, he gradually moved to the study of the physical variations among the races, including white, black, and Indian elements of the American population. From 1903 to 1942 Hrdlička headed the Division of Physical Anthropology at the United States National Museum in Washington, D.C.

From the description of Letter : [Washington, D.C.], to [Frederick Webb] Hodge, 1909 Sept. 7. (Newberry Library). WorldCat record id: 34869213

Stephen Bowers (1832?-1907) was a geologist, archaeologist, journalist and Methodist minister, who maintained an interest in southern California, including area fossils and artifacts. His geological and archaeological work was financed by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1997 a California archaeologist and Simi Valley, California resident Arlene Benson published Bowers’ field notes, collected by Smithsonian field ethnologist John Peabody Harrington, under the title The Noontide Sun: The Field Journals of the Reverend Stephen Bowers, Pioneer California Archaeologist.

Bowers was born near Wilmington, Indiana on March 3, 1832 to David and Esther Bowers. One of thirteen children, the family moved to a farm eight miles north of Indianapolis when he was one year old. A studious lad, he walked or rode on horseback several miles to a small rural schoolhouse. Poor health kept him indoors as a child during the winter months. Realizing that he was not cut out to be a farmer, Bowers decided at an early age to pursue the ministry, and at twenty-three was ordained a Methodist minister, affiliated with the Indiana Conference. He was dispatched as a Methodist circuit rider ninety miles west of his birthplace in Lawrence County, Indiana. In November 1856, just ten months after beginning his ministry, Bowers married the seventeen-year-old Martha Cracraft from the farming community of Greencastle. Their first son, Hayden, was named for Bowers’ hero Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden (1829-1887, APS 1860), the leader of U.S. government surveying expeditions to 109 western territories in 1859-60.

From his youth Bowers became a lifelong collector of artifacts and geological specimens. Although he dedicated himself to the pastorate and later also pursued a second career as a newspaper publisher, his primary interest was always archaeology. With the exception of military service with the 67th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War, Bowers spent several decades in pastoral ministry that took him to churches in Kentucky, Oregon and finally (because of his wife’s failing health) to California. In 1874 he moved from his first pulpit in Napa City to the city of Santa Barbara. There Bowers found the lure of the Indian burial grounds on the Santa Barbara channel irresistible.

In the summer of 1875 Bowers accepted an assignment as guide for several survey parties of the Army Corp of Engineers, working on both sides of the Santa Barbara channel. Wheeler’s party included archaeologist Paul Schumacher, botanist Joseph Trimble Rothrock (1839-1922, APS 1877) of the University of Pennsylvania and Henry Wetherbee Henshaw, an ethnologist and ornithologist with the Smithsonian Institution. The Wheeler survey occupied all of Bowers’ time, except Sundays, for three months and Wheeler’s notes make sixteen references to him. It was through Henshaw that Bowers came to the attention of Smithsonian professor Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887, APS 1855), who carried on an extensive twelve-year correspondence with him. Through Bowers’ excavations the Smithsonian would acquire thousands of California and Midwestern fossils and native American artifacts for its collections-seventeen accessions over twenty-nine years.

Since no trained archaeologist had ever visited the native American burial grounds on the San Nicholas and Santa Rosa Islands before Bowers’ 1875 excavation, he was the first to examine the remains of these settlements, and remove the skulls, implements and artifacts for shipment to the Smithsonian and other museums, as well as to private collectors. Most of the skeletons and artifacts were from the Chumash tribe. During his three-year tenure as pastor of the Santa Barbara Methodist congregation at the corner of De la Vina and De la Guerra streets, made one trip after another to the islands, usually accompanied by correspondent Simon Peter Guiberson of the Ventura Free Press and sometimes by his wife Martha and Dr. Lorenzo Yates of Centerville.

Although methods of archaeological excavation were crude at the time, and Bowers was not the only untrained archaeologist doing field work, modern historians and archaeologists, who are familiar with his activities generally regard him as “a meddler who destroyed fully as many artifacts as he preserved-and rendered the site scientifically useless as well.” They find his “flagrant disregard for orderly methods and his failure to preserve sites” inexcusable. It is unclear how many barrels of native American skulls, utensils and implements Bowers sent to collectors in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, but the Smithsonian alone credits 2,200 to 2,500 of its native American relics to his excavations between 1876-1905. Harvard’s Peabody Museum recorded 826 and hundreds made their way in public and private collections from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

No doubt, Bowers used questionable methods and was generally too impatient to exercise care in his excavations. Dr. Baird of the Smithsonian and Professor Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1894, APS 1863) of Harvard, two of his primary customers, were probably unaware of Bower’s methods, although the former was definitely impressed by him. Bowers completed his excavations for the Smithsonian in September 1877, and moved to Indianapolis to accept a temporary call. Sometime in 1878 he returned to California and resumed his excavations. But after his wife and son Hayden died within months of each other in October 1879 and April 1880, he could not bear to continue excavations. Instead, he departed from Santa Barbara to launch a new career as a newspaper publisher in Beloit, California; Platteville, Wisconsin; and Falls City, Nebraska. By October 1883 he had returned to California with a new wife Margaret Dickson to become publisher of the Ventura Free Press. Also serving a the Methodist pastor in the nearby town of Santa Paula, he launched another daily newspaper he called the Golden State. As a Prohibitionist and a Republican Bowers became involved in political controversy in his newspapers and in the pulpit, often teetering on the edge of libel. All the while he found time to continue digging artifacts in the Santa Barbara Channel!

In 1899 the aging Bowers was appointed State Mine Examiner by California Governor Henry T. Gage. He had attracted the attention of one of the governor’s aids by some earlier pamphlets he had written for the state mineralogist, as well as reports that made use of some of his geological contributions on rocks, fossils and oil-bearing strata. During his tenure Bowers endured the heat of the San Diego County desert to dig fossils in thirteen different counties and also undertook an assignment from the U.S. Geological Survey to survey fossil around Riverside.

Bowers enjoyed excellent health into his mid-seventies, and was accustomed to delivering two sermons weekly. However, in the final hours of 1906 while on a New Years vigil, he fell ill and three days later suffered a stroke from which he died. He was survived by his wife Margaret, his son DeMoss, and daughters Anna Bailey and Florence Cooper.

The American Philosophical Society’s holdings of his letters show that he corresponded with major nineteenth century American naturalists, including Asa Gray (1810-1888, APS 1848) and Joseph Le Conte (1823-1901, APS 1873), as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Natural History, the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Geographical Survey. Bowers also received an honorary doctorate from Willamette University in Oregon.

From the guide to the Stephen Bowers correspondence, 1860-1915, 1860-1915, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Bingham family. Bingham family papers, 1811-1974 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn The Inquiry papers, 1915-1921 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Severinghaus, Elmer Louis, 1894-1980. Letters, 1920-1945. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Franz Boas Papers, 1862-1942 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Boas, Franz, 1858-1942. Correspondence, 1862-1942. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Putnam, Frederic Ward, 1839-1915. Papers, 1807-1971 (bulk: 1855-1935) Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University
referencedIn Davenport, Charles Benedict, 1866-1944. Charles Benedict Davenport papers, 1874-1944. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Bingham family. Bingham family papers, 1811-1974 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Bowers, Stephen, 1832-1907. Correspondence, 1860-1915. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Yale Peruvian Expedition papers, 1908-1948 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Chase, Richard, 1904-1988. Isabel Gordon Carter collection, 1921-1942. Library of Congress
referencedIn Hewett, Edgar L. (Edgar Lee), 1865-1946. Edgar L. Hewett files, 1915-1940. Museum of New Mexico Library
referencedIn Samuel George Morton Papers, 1819-1850 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Hrdlička, Aleš, 1869-1943. Bibliographic card file, undated. OCLC Western Training, W7L
referencedIn Yale Peruvian Expedition (1911). Yale Peruvian Expedition papers, 1908-1948 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Elmer Louis Severinghaus letters, 1920-1945, 1920-1945 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Stephen Bowers correspondence, 1860-1915, 1860-1915 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Hrdlička, Aleš, 1869-1943. Letter. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
referencedIn Bingham family papers, 1811-1974 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Hrdlička, Aleš, 1869-1943. Letter : [Washington, D.C.], to [Frederick Webb] Hodge, 1909 Sept. 7. Newberry Library
referencedIn Morton, Arnold N. Papers of Arnold Morton relating observations and oceanographic research on an Arctic cruise of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Northland, 1937. Alaska State Library
referencedIn Smith, Erminnie Adele Platt, 1836-1886. [Peabody Museum director records, Frederic W. Putnam (1839-1915), 1870-1923]. Harvard University, Tozzer Library
referencedIn The Inquiry Papers, 1915-1921 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alliot, Hector, 1862-1919 person
associatedWith Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887 person
associatedWith Bean, Robert Bennett, 1874-1944. person
associatedWith Bingham family. family
associatedWith Bingham family. family
associatedWith Bingham family. family
associatedWith Boas, Franz, 1858-1942. person
associatedWith Bowers, Stephen, 1832-1907. person
associatedWith Brinton, Daniel Garrison, 1837-1899 person
associatedWith Davenport, Charles Benedict, 1866-1944. person
associatedWith Dibner, Bern, person
associatedWith Edward E. Ayer Manuscript Collection (Newberry Library) corporateBody
correspondedWith Frederic Ward Putnam, 1813-1915 person
associatedWith Goode, G. Brown, (George Brown), 1851-1896 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Hayden, F. V., (Ferdinand Vandeveer), 1829-1887 person
associatedWith Henshaw, Henry W., (Henry Wetherbee), 1850-1930 person
associatedWith Hewett, Edgar L. (Edgar Lee), 1865-1946. person
associatedWith Hilgard, Eugene W., (Eugene Woldemar), 1833-1916 person
correspondedWith Hodge, Frederick Webb, 1864-1956 person
associatedWith Mason, Otis Tufton, 1838-1908. person
associatedWith Merrill, George P., (George Perkins), 1854-1929 person
associatedWith Morton, Arnold N. person
associatedWith Morton, Samuel George, 1799-1851 person
associatedWith Newberry Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Severinghaus, Elmer Louis, 1894-1980. person
associatedWith Silliman, Benjamin, Jr., 1816-1885 person
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. corporateBody
associatedWith United States National Museum. Division of Physical Anthropology. corporateBody
associatedWith Vail, Isaac N., (Isaac Newton), 1840-1912 person
associatedWith Yale Peruvian Expedition (1911) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Aleutian Islands (Alaska)
Physical anthropology--Research--Sources
Indians of North America--California--Antiquities
Fossils--Collection and preservation--California


Birth 1869-03-29

Death 1943-09-05





Ark ID: w68g8p0f

SNAC ID: 50098949